Last week, two members of Congress, Representative Kevin Brady of Texas and Representative Richard Neal of Massachusetts, introduced H.R. 5697, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act. The bill, if passed, would repeal the Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), and replace it with a more fair formula helping those who have been impacted by the WEP and those who will be in the future.
In a press release dated November 13, Representative Brady stated, “Our goal for many years has been to end the unfair WEP and provide equal treatment to all workers in Social Security, including our teachers, firefighters, police and other public servants who have contributed into Social Security.”
Members of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) have advocated for many years that Congress repeal the WEP, and TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee was invited last summer to Washington, D.C. by Congressman Brady to discuss the bill and share his thoughts about how it impacts hundreds of thousands of retired public educators in Texas and throughout the nation.
H.R. 5697, if passed, would:
- Permanently repeal the current Windfall Elimination Provision and replace it with a new and fair formula that treats public servants like the rest of American workers.
- Guarantee public servants receive the benefits they earned while they paid into Social Security.
- Reduce the WEP by up to a third for current retirees, and up to half for future retirees – increasing lifetimeSocial Security benefits by between $20,000 and $32,400 (as estimated by the Social Security actuary).
- Not impact the Social Security trust fund.
What does this mean for retired educators in Texas? If H.R. 5697 passes, your Social Security amount will no longer be figured by the arbitrary WEP formula established in 1983, but will be based on your real-life Social Security contributions and work history — just like everyone else.
An estimate provided by the Social Security Actuary’s office indicates the average retiree would receive an annual $1,034 increase in Social Security income, or an additional $20,000 over the lifetime of an average retiree for those who are retired already or will turn age 62 before December 31, 2016. Retiree’s Social Security income would increase by approximately 32 percent.
Persons who turn age 62 after January 1, 2017, would be subject to the new Public Servant Fairness Formula. On average, retirees would receive $1,620 in additional Social Security benefits per year, about $32,400 over the average lifetime of retirement.
What Happens Now?
The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means, a committee on which Representative Brady serves. After review by the Committee, the bill would need to be brought to the House of Representatives for a vote, then if passed, would need to be presented to the Senate for a vote as well. If the bill passed both Houses of Congress, it would then be sent to the President to be signed and become law.
We are still in the very early stages of the bill’s progress. While the news is good, there is much work to be done to get H.R. 5697 passed! TRTA will launch an email advocacy campaign on this issue with our Texas Congressional Delegation in the weeks to come.
For now, TRTA members can spread the word to their fellow retirees and their friends in the active school community that we have not given up on the idea of fairness for our members and their Social Security earnings. We are gearing up to pass a bill that puts more money back into your pockets!
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